How to design and print your own fabric
I think fabric shopping is my favourite part of sewing. I can spend hours browsing the fabric shops, oohing and aahing over the different bolts. Sometimes however, you just can’t find the perfect design. So what do you do then? Make your own of course!
My first foray into fabric design was due to an upcoming conference. I work in the wildlife trade, and pangolins are one of my favourite animals. They’re the only scaled mammal in the world, and also the most trafficked. I figured a top featuring pangolins would be the perfect thing to wear while giving a talk about the wildlife trade, but they’re a pretty niche interest! I decided to make my own pangolin fabric.
I downloaded Inkscape, a free vector graphics software. I found a photo of a pangolin curled up into a ball (a defensive posture) by Tikki Hywood Trust under a Creative Commons license, and traced it in Inkscape. I used fushia and purple as my main colours (I like things bright!), and added some ants (a favourite food for pangolins).
Next I imported my pangolin design into Spoonflower. This is a website where you can have your own designs printed onto a range of different fabrics and wallpapers, or use other peoples’. I tiled my design so that each pangolin was about 2”. From a distance they just look like large polka dots!
Note, before you order any large pieces I recommend buying a fabric sample pack for $3. I chose the Cotton Sateen Ultra for my pangolin fabric, and in retrospect it wasn’t quite what I wanted.
My fabric arrived in a couple of weeks, and I decided to self-draft a sleeveless top using my dressform. It goes great with the Arenite pants by Sew Liberated.
(Please excuse the dire need for ironing in the next photo…)
I had such a great experience designing my own fabric that I didn’t stop there! Perhaps my favourite (and most controversial design) is Pathologies of the Uterus. It’s an anatomically-correct cross-section of the female reproductive system, featuring nearly everything that can go wrong with it! Cysts, endometriosis, cancer, fibroids, adhesions, salpingitis, and polyps, you name it, it’s got it.
I made a lovely swing dress using the Modern Jersey from Spoonflower and a modified George & Ginger pattern. I even had some badges printed. A menopausal friend asked for one to wear when she was having mood swings, to warn her daughter and husband to be wary!
The modern jersey from Spoonflower is beautifully soft, and I knew I wanted more dresses made from it. I used Krita, a raster graphics editor, to design a fabric featuring endangered marine species as I’m currently working on a project involving sea turtles. McCall’s 7349 served as the basis for this colour-blocked dress.
If you have any questions about this process, please message me! I’ll finish with another of my favourite designs, Sudan the last male Northern white rhino.